31 Days Of Horror Movie Challenge: Day 6

Each day in October, three brave souls from our gang of Groovy Goolies (co-editor Paul Childs, Boardgames Master Aaron Nash and Ultimate Movie Geek Nathaniel Jepson) are watching horror films from around the world and across a wide spectrum of the horror genre, so expect slashers, ghosts, cultists, demons, vampires, cannibals, zombies, kaiju, aliens and more!

Paul’s Choice – Leviathan (1989)

For some reason known only to Hollywood, there was a raft (hoho) of submarine and underwater based fantasy, adventure and horror movies in the late 80s and early 90s, beginning with Luc Besson’s Le Grand Bleu in 1988, through The Abyss, Deep Star Six, Evil Below, Lords of the Deep, The Hunt For Red October and ending with The Rift in 1990. However, tonight I chose 1989’s Leviathan.

I saw this as a teenager when it came out on VHS and back then I hadn’t yet seen The Thing or Alien so I didn’t realise quite how derivative it was of those two classics. I was, however, well aware of its similarities to The Abyss. Three films I love, and none of which this is anywhere near as good as! But it does still have quite a lot going for it. There’s the geek-worthy cast, for starters: Robocop, Winston Zeddemore, Marv The Wet Bandit and Colonel Trautman (Peter Weller, Ernie Hudson, Daniel Stern and Richard Crenna), not to mention Pretty Woman‘s Barney (Héctor Elizondo, whose geek credentials were boosted massively by voicing Commissioner Gordon in last year’s The Lego Batman Movie). Then there’s some half decent (although a little unsettlingly jolly for a horror film) score by Jerry Goldsmith. But probably more impressive than any of that is the presence of Stan Winston’s wonderful monster effects. His titular sea monster, like many great movie creatures, is only ever seen in flashes, which adds to its threat and mystique. What we do get to see is really quite impressive –  a hint of lamprey here, a touch of anglerfish there – it’s well and truly an unsettlingly realistic marine beast!

Aside from the great effects, it’s a fairly by the numbers base-under-siege movie which is a fun enough way to spend 97 minutes but doesn’t really add anything to the far better films I have already mentioned.

Aaron’s Choice – Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)

The first is a genre classic with its gothic feel and impressive special effects, but it was the character of Lead Cenobite that caught everyone’s attention. Supposedly nicknamed Pinhead by the makeup artists, this character had such a presence, you just wanted to know more about him and more about the world these monsters have come from.

This is why I possibly prefer the second film to the first. It continues the story of the first but gives us more about the Cenobites, what they were and the place they now inhabit. There’s a lot of scope to this film and that’s what makes it stand out. The first is a near perfectly crafted haunted house film. This film has them exploring the Cenobite world. It’s the Aliens to the first films Alien. Further films (8 more sequels have followed so far) in the franchise would also try to add more background to the characters but most would fail quite badly.

There are hints to the original Hellraiser short story (The Hellbound Heart) here which develop the characters further. As mentioned before Pinhead now has a more prominent place with the film ultimately being about him. We possibly have a bit too much focus on him and not enough on the others, but it works. I would have liked a little more mystery about the character but they handle it well.

The acting, direction and writing are all top-notch, with just a couple of the special effects looking a bit ropey nowadays. All in all its a fantastic film and builds on the first in the best way possible. In the words of Pinhead;

“We have such sights to show you”

Nathaniel’s Choice – Don’t Look Now (1973)

Our resident YouTuber is sharing his thoughts via a video every day. Here is his review of Nicholas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now:

Paul Childs

As well as writing for Den of Geek and Your Truth, Paul also runs Badgers Crossing, a site for ghost stories. He loves the 1980s and thanks to a keen interest in Public Information Films he has never been electrocuted or set himself on fire.